The European Union is committed to finalizing an agreement with the UK on the post-Brexit relationship, but not “at any cost,” European Council President Charles Michel has said.
Speaking at a press conference in Brussels on Friday after a meeting between EU leaders, Michel reaffirmed the bloc’s commitment to further negotiations with London.
Britain officially left the EU at the end of January and entered a transition period, during which post-Brexit relations with the EU, including trade terms, are due to be finalized. Michel stressed that the sides need to intensify their negotiations before the transition period expires on December 31.
Outstanding issues include standards for open and fair competition, fisheries, as well as law enforcement and judicial cooperation.German Chancellor Angela Merkel earlier made a similar call, saying a deal must be reached and implemented by autumn this year.
“We recognized that the negotiations must be accelerated … as in the autumn there must be an agreement as this agreement must still be ratified by both sides,” Merkel said.
The EU-UK talks have failed to make progress in recent months. The Northern Ireland issue remains unresolved – the region will effectively stay in the EU single market and apply the bloc’s customs rules, unless alternative arrangements can be reached. That would mean controls and checks on goods between Northern Ireland and Great Britain, although the EU and the UK remain at odds as to how the checks should be implemented.
Earlier this month, the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier called on the UK to be more “realistic” in its demands, saying London cannot take a “cherry picking” attitude to EU rules.